New York State holds hearing on COVID-19 deaths in nursing homes
At least 6,000 COVID-relateds deaths in New York nursing homes. Aishah Hasnie reports.
Nursing homes with histories of fraud and labor violations received hundreds of millions of dollars in a "no strings attached" federal handout meant to cover shortfalls and expenses during the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report Tuesday.
More than a dozen companies that received the federal funding have settled civil lawsuits with the Department of Justice in recent years over forged documents, improper Medicare billing as well as substandard care and other abuses.
The companies were forced to repay the government more than $260 million in total and nearly all are under active corporate integrity agreements with the inspector general of the Department of Health and Human Services – the same agency that distributed the coronavirus money, the Washington Post's analysis on federal spending practices found.
The five-year agreements made with the companies also resulted in employee training, enhanced reporting protocols and independent audits.
In New York, two nursing homes that are part of SentosaCare, a for-profit company, received more than $2 million. In October, a federal judge ruled that one of the owners violated human trafficking laws after Filipino nurses brought to the U.S. to work in the homes complained they were overworked, underpaid and threatened with thousands of dollars in fines if they quit. The company is appealing the ruling.
The $175 billion in federal money given to hospitals, nursing homes and health care providers came from the Provider Relief Fund. Of that sum, nursing homes received $4.9 billion and had only a couple of stipulations on how the money could be used.
Basically, they couldn't spend the cash on abortions or gun-control lobbying. They were not required to stock up on COVID-19 related items like personal protective equipment nor did they have to use the money for hazard or overtime pay for nurses and other health care workers.
"The president wants us to accelerate getting those dollars out," Seema Verma, administrator for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said in April during a press conference with the White House coronavirus task force. "There are no strings attached, so the health care providers that are receiving these dollars can essentially spend that in any way they see fit."
Some experts in the health care industry fear a few greedy for-profit companies may take the money without investing it where it matters.
"This has been one of my concerns from the moment the government passed the Cares Act – the money is not ending up where it needs to be," Michael Wasserman, medical director of the California Association of Long Term Care Medicine said. "The help has to go specifically to the front line."
In June, Rep. James Clyburn, D-S.C., launched an investigation that focused on grant spending by five nursing home chains.
"Nursing home companies that received funds after committing fraud warrant particularly close scrutiny," he told The Post.
Fox News reached out to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services for comment. However, the press line mailbox was full, and a message could not be left.
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